Right Attitudes, Part 2- Loving God & Others (Sn2:Ep08)

Peace to Live By: Right Attitudes, Part 2- Loving God & Others (Sn2:Ep08) - Daniel Litton
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[Transcripts may not match broadcasted sermon word for word, and may contain extra material that was cut from the broadcast due to time constraints]

       Back when the United States use to fly Shuttle missions, and really any missions to space, as we all know the setup was that the Shuttle would go up into space and communicate back to earth with Mission Control. Now, before the astronauts went into space, they obviously had to go through a great deal of training to know how to do everything they were expected to do. Everything in training had to be carefully learned and articulately considered. The manuals had to be known frontward and backwards. And the astronauts also had to work with each other well. Their ability to get along in space was critically important, and they had to support and help each other.

       But the goal of the astronauts in getting into space was to do whatever the mission objectives required. It was their responsibility to communicate with Mission Control and to follow any instructions provided to them during communication. It was their job to please Mission Control, and make sure the flight controllers where happy. And it wasn’t that the astronauts didn’t want to do this. After all, they had agreed to be astronauts—they had agreed to go up into space. They would want to please the people on the ground because they were the people working with them for their common good. They were the ones who were paying them, and who would make sure they came back to earth safely.

       I think living the Christian life is a very similar setup to how astronauts worked with Mission Control. A notable difference, though, is that God is the one in Heaven, and we are the ones here on the ground. But our goal as Christians is to learn everything from God’s Word we possibly can, so that we know what is pleasing to God. If we want to love God, we have to know what he wants us to know. And we find that information in the Bible. The Bible is our training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). And it’s also true that as we live the Christian life, we are on mission. Except our mission isn’t in space; our mission is here on the earth. God wants us to model Christ’s behavior as best we can—doing what is pleasing to him. And he wants us to give witness of the truth to those around us who don’t know Jesus. But another important part of living the Christian life is by working alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ—loving them as they love us. God puts a great emphasis in the New Testament on being part of a body of believers.

       Before we dive into what I want to talk about today, I also want to briefly consider a piece of NASA history while we are on the subject. In late August 2007, Space Shuttle Endeavour made it's way across the sky for it's landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Now, not known by many, an especially important event happened on this day. What occurred really didn't get much coverage in the media, and I think a lot of people missed it and didn't realize the significance of the STS-118 mission. When Shuttle Endeavour landed, it meant that an American schoolteacher had made her way into space, and come back to tell us about it. Barbara Morgan was the first American schoolteacher in space.

       But as many of you know it all started some years earlier in 1985 (June) when NASA announced the Teacher in Space Project. Teachers from across the country had submitted their applications in hopes of being selected to be the schoolteacher that would get to go into space on the Space Shuttle. And, as we know Christa McAuliffe of New Hampshire was the teacher chosen for the task. Being a high school social studies teacher, she was a good pick. Barbara Morgan was chosen as her backup, as there was always an astronaut backup crew with a backup for each astronaut. January 1986 was the time chosen for McAuliffe to go into space, and the Shuttle taking her there would be Challenger. After many scrubs and delays, Challenger took off on Tuesday, January 28, 1986 with Morgan there as well to watch the launch. But as we know, Challenger didn't make it very far into its flight, and all seven astronauts aboard her perished, including Mrs. McAuliffe. Mrs. Morgan watched the whole thing happen before her, and she was undoubtedly shocked.

       But some twenty-one years later, Barbara Morgan completed the task that Christa McAuliffe had originally set out to achieve. She had returned to NASA to become an astronaut years earlier. Mrs. Morgan became the first American schoolteacher in space. Morgan saw the need to finish what her partner had set out to originally accomplish. It’s unfortunate that not many talk about this accomplishment, as really it is one of the greatest unsung accomplishments in NASA history. McAuliffe would undoubtedly be proud of Morgan's achievement, and I think we all are.

       What I want us to see here, as Christians, is the right attitude demonstrated in this story I just talked about. Morgan set out to accomplish McAuliffe's mission, and this was done undoubtedly out of caring attitude for her legacy. And how do we, as believers, show our love for others, both those in the household of faith and those who are not believers? Indeed Morgan went a long way, and she set a good example—and it let's us ask the question of how far do we go? This is an epic example, and most of us will never go into space. But in the areas of our lives, both big and small, how do we demonstrate love?

       So, in understanding all of this, there are two particular things I want to talk about today for us, as Christians. Number one, I want to talk about having a right attitude in loving God. It is important that we love God the best we can in our lives because, after all, he is God and is the most significant Person in our lives. Number two, I want us to consider the attitude of loving our neighbors as ourselves. It is also necessary, besides our love for God, that we have a right attitude in loving our neighbors as ourselves. If we don't love God and love our fellow neighbors, we wont be very successful in life.

       To start off, today, let’s consider our love for God, as Christians. A good example of a person who really loved God in the Bible is David. The Apostle Paul told us in Acts 13, speaking of God: “‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ (Acts 13:22 ESV). How do we be like David and love God then? Well, in the most basic sense we show our love for God by doing all his will he has asked us to do—that is, living by every word God has told us. Jesus talked about this in his temptation with Satan in the wilderness. When Satan was tempting him, he said that people should live “by every word that comes from the mouth of God'” (Matthew 4:4, ESV). He was paraphrasing Deuteronomy 8:3.

       But Jesus gave us an even further explanation on how we should love God the best we can. He said, ““You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27, ESV). This is a really good verse. Let's examine this a little closer. Now, Jesus mentions the heart, the soul, strength, and the mind. So, we are to love God with all of our hearts—that is, with complete self-control in light of all of God’s will for us. We should be able to control our actions in such a way that is pleasing to God. Then, we are to love God will all our souls. That is, our whole self. The Word of God has to permeate every part of our lives. We are not compartmentalize, but rather we should keep God in perspective with everything we do in our lives, thus denying ourselves—any of our own ways in doing things without keeping God in perspective. This brings up strength. We are to love God the best we can, give good effort, and should not be half-hearted or lazy in our love for God. Finally, we love God with all our minds. That means in our thought-life. We should not only think about good things, but we shouldn't think about bad things. We need to keep our minds pure and away from thinking evil thoughts.

       Let's consider some Bible verses to supplement our foundational verse here. The Apostle Paul prayed that God “according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16-17, ESV). We have to have faith in order to believe in God, and then subsequently to love him. All of us in this life have faith in something, no matter what we believe. If we believe in God, we have faith in God that he has saved us from his wrath and that we will live with him someday in Heaven. If a person has faith in something else—like that the world came about through natural processes alone—they have ‘faith’ that they are right and that there is nothing after this life. Of course, we as Christians believe that's not true. But everyone has faith in something, whether they know it or not. We use faith all the time. When a person gets into a car, for instance, the person has faith that he or she will make it a determined destination.

       In regard to loving God with our hearts, that means we have complete control of ourselves so that we are acting in the ways God says are right. Now, of course, this doesn’t mean we will be perfect in our actions, as we will make mistakes from time to time, but it means that our goal and motivation is always trying to please God in self-control. We should not put ourselves in the drivers seat of our lives, but rather let God drive the car. If we are in the drivers seat, we are being selfish and taking control of our day-to-day events. That’s bad because we will undoubtedly lead ourselves in the wrong direction. We have to let God lead us in all our important decisions. When you read the Gospels, you notice that Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer with God. And I think this is something we all should work on. I believe if we spend more time in prayer with God, we will see better God-centered results in our lives. We will have clearer direction of where God wants us to go and what he wants us to be focusing on in our lives.

       We also love God with all our soul. Paul said to the Thessalonians, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24. ESV). Now, there is a sense in sanctification where we, as Christians, are already blameless before God in his sight, as the blood of Jesus has declared us righteous before God. But there is also a sense where we are to become sanctified in this life by following Jesus, by following what God says in his Word to us. So, Paul's prayer to the Thessalonians was that God would keep their souls—their ‘selves’—blameless before him. Now this will surely happen because of Jesus' sacrifice for us, but we should also be diligent in trying to be pleasing to God as best we can, to the best of our knowledge. This will involving denying ourselves—wanting to follow our own ways without God’s input. Jesus, on one occasion, said we must deny ourselves daily (Luke 9:23). This is loving God with our souls. Doing what is pleasing to him, with all our souls, makes him happy.

       Strength is the next area in our loving of God. The Apostle Paul said, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (Philippians 3:14-16, ESV). Running the race that God has set before us is the way we love God with all our strength. God expects us to be maturing and growing toward becoming more like Jesus. He will focus on a particular area at a certain time, and expect us to master that hurtle and grow. Then as time goes along he will show us a new area where growth is needed. In the Christian life, we are always going to be growing into becoming better people and more pleasing to God. Jesus talked about picking up our cross daily and following him (Luke 9:23). This is loving God with all our strength, in picking up our crosses and carrying them. It was God’s will that Jesus go to the cross, and it is God’s will that we live for God, even when we don’t completely agree with him.

       Finally, we love God with all our minds. Paul told Timothy: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5 ESV). I think this verse captures the heart of having a healthy mind. Number one, note that Paul said “The aim of our charge is love.” We know that love is foundational to everything; that is, we should be doing all that we do out of love (see 1 Corinthians 13 for more on this). Nonetheless, this love is dependent on three subcategories, which Paul mentioned here.

       In order to have a healthy mind, first, we have to have a pure heart. Our thought-life should be one of purity. If were going around thinking impure thoughts, that is unpleasing to God and eventually is going to lead us to incorrect behavior. Our thoughts determine our actions. That is, we do what we are thinking of first. This is very basic. Remember what Paul said about monitoring your individual thoughts? He said to the Corinthians, “We… take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, ESV). So, number one we have to be aware of what are thoughts actually are. Sometimes we are thinking wrong things without realizing they are wrong. Number two, we have grab hold of those thoughts, take them “captive,” getting rid of the ones that would be displeasing to God. This will take time, but it is a necessary struggle. It may take a lot of time, actually, but we should hang in there as it is well worth the fight. By having a filter on our thought-life we then have clean minds and have good thoughts which are obedient to Jesus.

       Second, by being obedient in our thoughts and behaviors, we then have a “good conscience.” If we live daily with a bad conscience, it is going to affect our confidence and ability to make the right decisions on a day-to-day basis. We cannot live, as Christians, doing wrong things when we know good and well that they are wrong. If we violate our conscience, it is going to become easier the next time to do whatever wrong we are doing. And that’s a bad spot for us to be in. Some of you may have already toasted your conscience in a certain area. Well, if that’s the case, ask God for the Holy Spirit to convict you so that you can begin working toward eliminating that incorrect behavior from your life. God wants you to improve, and if you ask him for forgiveness, he will help you and he isn’t going to get mad at you. He already knows you have the problem, and he will be pleased with your desire to overcome it.

       Third and finally, we are to have a “sincere faith.” We should be honest with God, ourselves, and others where appropriate. The writer of Hebrews told us, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, ESV). We have to have faith in God’s Word that what he has told us is indeed true, and that it is applicable to living daily life. If we don’t have faith in God, that he will help us and that he is on our sides, then there isn’t probably going to be much progress in our lives. Life will probably end up being boring and dull because you have no faith, no hope in God and his goodness. But God is on your side, if you’re a Christian. We can say confidently with the Psalmist, “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me” (Psalms 118:5-7, ESV).

       Now, let’s shift gears here a bit and talk about how, we, as Christians, should love our neighbors as ourselves. You might asking, much like the lawyer did in Luke chapter 10, 'Who is my neighbor?' Well, really, that's a good question because it can provide us with further clarification. After all, this is the second greatest command, 'to love our neighbors as ourselves,' and we want to be sure that we get it right. In the most basic sense, our neighbors include everyone and anyone, really. Jesus demonstrated this fact in the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10. After Jesus told the parable, he asked, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:36, 37, ESV). The lawyer got it right. We are to love others as we have opportunity, and God may even have us love them to a fuller extent than the norm, like the Good Samaritan did in the parable.

       So, we learn that our neighbors then include both non-Christians and Christians alike. It is important to note that, for the Christian, God puts great emphasis on loving both groups of people. After all, we are all called to go and share the Good News of Jesus with people who aren't saved. We do this by the way we live our lives, and we do it through conversation. Some even have the calling of evangelism or sharing God's truth on a more grandeur scale. But nonetheless, it is the responsibility of all of us. Jesus called us the “salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13, 14, ESV). If we look at the second of his illustrations, he said, ““You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16, ESV). Now I understand that it may be more effective for some of you to show your faith by your lives, like at your workplace (depending on where you work) and as opportunity allows hopefully we will be able to extend that into fruitful conversations.

       But there is also a great sense in the New Testament of loving our fellow brothers and sisters in the body of Christ—those who are part of your church alongside you. The Apostle Paul taught us, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10, ESV). So, there is a sense with the Christian where loving our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ can become more important in priority than loving those outside the church. But both are to be loved. Remember what the Apostle John said in his first epistle? He said, “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20, 21, ESV). So, the born-again Christian indwelled by God the Holy Spirit will have the desire to love his or her fellow believers in the church.

       Now, how do we love our fellow brothers and sisters within the body of Christ? Let us understand that God has given people within the church different roles in building each other up. Paul talked this in Ephesians chapter 4. In understanding this subject, I would us to go ahead and consider that section of Scripture. So, turn with me over there, or tap there, and let's look at Ephesians chapter 4 and verses 11 through 16. The Apostle Paul states:

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16, ESV).

The key here that I want to focus on for today is the latter part of this text. Paul said that these leaders within the church help the church members grow up and become mature. And this done by none other than focusing on the truth—God's truth—in attaining this mature character. Indeed, God's truth—the Bible—is essential in growth. We need to know our Bibles in order to act in the ways which God says are right, and this includes loving our fellow church members. God's truth is everything. It is foundational; it is essential.

       But I want to state a warning that is applicable to some within the body of believers. Paul said to Timothy, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8, ESV). If your the man of the house, and say you lost your job for instance, and you haven't been able to find a job—come on, it's time to get up off the couch and try harder. Indeed, some of you aren't trying hard enough. You know who you are. God says not only do our fellow believers in the body of Christ matter, but also our personal families matter. I think some of us know believers who, in helping the church, end up neglecting their own families. This is wrong. Even for pastors, they have to take care of their own family members—no matter what the needs. You shouldn't neglect the needs of family members and say, “Sorry, I need to spend my time and resources helping God and the church.” Jesus condemned the Pharisees in Mark chapter 7 for teaching that people shouldn't help their parents monetarily because they have set aside their money for God. Loving God the best we can doesn't mean we neglect love for our families.

       In conclusion today, I want us all to remember that God does indeed love us, as Christians, and he even loves those who are not Christians. He shows his love to the whole world in that he takes care of it, giving all of us things we do not deserve. But I want those who are not Christian today to realize that even though God loves you, you still need to come into a personal relationship with him to be truly free (see Romans 8:7). God showed his love for everyone by having Jesus die on the cross of all sins of all time (see Hebrews 9:26). But because each of us are born with a sin nature, we have to accept Jesus' perfect sacrifice on the cross for forgiveness of sins, and to be truly set free from sin (see Romans 3:23, 24). You see, Jesus can make you free today (see Romans 8:2). He died on a cross, some 2,000 years ago, and he rose from the dead by God's power so that anyone can be forgiven and set free from sin (see 1 Peter 2:24).

       By believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of the wrongs you did, you can be made to be at peace with God (see Romans 5:1). He will forgive any and every offense for anyone who comes to him in agreement with him (see 1 John 1:9). There's no need to continue living with the weight of your sin on your shoulders. There's no need to live with regret (see Philippians 3:13, 14). God can take that off your shoulders, and you can be made right with him today. Not only will you be in right relationship with him, but he also freely gives eternal life to whoever will believe in him (see John 3:16). There will be no hell in the future for those who accept Jesus (see Ephesians 1:13, 14). There is no more condemnation for them (see Romans 8:1). They are free: free to live and have a new life (see Galatians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

       If you would like to accept Jesus today as your personal Lord and Savior, then just follow my lead in this simple prayer:

God, I have messed up in my life. I have sinned against you, and against others. I have not lived up to your righteous standard. But I understand that through Jesus I can have forgiveness for my sins, that the weight can come off my shoulders. I want to accept Jesus' sacrifice on my behalf, and I believe that he rose from the dead. I turn from willingly doing wrong today, and count Jesus as my Lord. Please, change my life and make me new. In Jesus' name, Amen.

-Daniel Litton